GANASSI AND THE TARGET TEAM TALK INDY
MODERATOR: Folks, we've got a double situation here again. We've got a very tight time frame at the beginning. Also, following this, they have a team meeting that they are scheduled to have. So we're going to be very quick here.
Chip, a different situation than our just previous one where you have a team that you're starting out and growing. Here's a team with not only great drivers, proven drivers, championship drivers, Indianapolis 500-winning drivers. I would suggest or think that the scenario when you think about this operation is a little bit different.
CHIP GANASSI: It is. I mean, obviously this is where it all started and this is a team that Mike and I along with a lot of other people, and certainly with the help of Target over the years, have put together. Yeah, we approach this team a little differently than you would a start-up situation. But it's this team that enables that situation.
But, no, this team is -- you know, I'm blessed to have two drivers that at any circuit we go to can win. It's that simple. Either driver can win at any race we go to, and that's a great feeling. It's because we have good cars put together by Mike and his people. It's a great feeling to -- you know, I guess how I would characterize Target Chip Ganassi Racing, when I was a young driver I would always have wanted to drive for a team like this, you know, that has everything and everything can happen and has happened fortunately for us in the past. But when we come into an event like this, we have one thing in mind and that's being the first one at the checkered flag at the end of the 500 miles, it's that simple.
MODERATOR: You've proven to be that, obviously.
Mike, we had Mitch Davis in here talking about a couple of things, getting used to Graham, who's had a little bit more experience, taking a driver like Charlie through his first paces here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. You're in a different situation. You've got two drivers who not only have been champions but have won. Is your task any different than Mitch's in that regard given the experience of these two gentlemen?
MIKE HULL: I think it's very similar. Just to reflect on what Chip said and it will answer your question, I hope. What's made us as good as we might be, hopefully not in our own minds, it's all about today. It's all about growth today. We work on today as hard as we know how to by simply prioritizing what the most important things are to accomplish. That's what Mitch is doing with his group of people.
So I'd have to say that we're very parallel in what we do with both teams. We have the same culture, the same ethic. We're going to work hard with Scott and Dario to be at the front because that's what we work on doing. Anything less than that means it's going to be 11 months and 31 days of agony to be ready for the next event. Because this is still the most important race in the world.
MODERATOR: Another question. And I look across to Scott Dixon and I think about, Scott, you coming into the series, you won a championship right off the bat. More than anyone, you've weathered both good and difficult times with this team. Some may not remember that this team has had peaks and valleys, as well. That's something you have to fight through, I think, not only throughout a year, but even during the month of May.
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, that's true. You know, obviously it was a great way to start my career in IndyCar and obviously with Target Chip Ganassi with the first year and the year that we won, which I think was probably a little unexpected, and I was still very young and didn't really know what I had achieved at that point. But those years in '04 and '05, I think the team definitely grew a lot. The tough years are probably some of the years you learn the most. I know in my case it was definitely true. Learned a lot in those years, and I think it's helped me throughout my career.
But it's nice once we hit 2006, that every year we've been in contention for the championship with either myself or my teammate. So, you know, I think the team as a whole and with all the drivers that they've had have achieved a hell of a lot. But as everybody says, you know, that's in the past, and now we've got to look to the future and, obviously, Indy is the most important race that we come to, and obviously for the driver and the teams, it is the one you want to win. This year more so being the centennial celebration, that little more added pressure in trying to achieve that race and trying to dominate that race. So hopefully we have our ducks in a row, and we can find the speed for qualifying on Pole Day and obviously go on to the main prize, the Indy 500.
MODERATOR: Dario, we went through a period in our sport where everyone seemed to be enamored with the 18-, 19-, 20-year-old driver, and I look to you who had a great career and long career, but some of your greatest days have really been in the last five or six years, championships, Indianapolis 500 victories. That's got to be pretty gratifying to you and still be at the top of your game.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Absolutely. I've managed to win races over 12- or 13-year period here but, yeah, the championships and the Indy 500s have come in the last four or five years. So I'm very proud of that.
Some of that is the situations you find yourself in. Definitely since I came back to IndyCar and driving for Target Chip Ganassi Racing, that's been a big part of it. I'm not sure, I didn't expect the type of success, I hoped for it, but I didn't expect it, but it's been very nice. Getting pushed along here by my teammate, just the way the team goes about things, yeah, it's been really good. But we are looking very much at this race now. We had a great time last year winning again, but I'm sitting here right now thinking about how we're going to make the car better today for the race and then for qualifying tomorrow.
MODERATOR: I suspect that's what these two gentlemen like to hear from you.
Again, we have a very brief period of time here. We have time for a question or two.
Q: This is for Scott and Dario. If you two were coming down to the end on May 29th, side by side or tail to front and he's trying to win, Scott, you're trying to win, you're second to match him, he's trying to become one of the few three-time winners, who's going to yield to who?
FRANCHITTI: I think that depends on the situation, the position we find ourselves in on the track. We'll let the boss speak on this one. He's got the final word.
GANASSI: I have always said there's no -- one of the great things about our team, and this goes back to the Vasser-Zanardi days, there are no team orders about who's going to -- we've always let our guys race it out. But there is one rule we have, and that is don't take each other out. So I think if it came down to that, Dick, you would see two -- nothing would be better than to see two previous winners from the same team coming to the checkered flag, and that's certainly a possibility. But you will also see two drivers who have a huge amount of respect for each other, for the equipment they're driving and for what is at stake. And I think you would see one of them would understand that he's maybe at a slight disadvantage and his maturity level would overcome him at that point. (Laughter) And he would yield to his teammate.
DIXON: Maturity, you must be commenting on the older driver. (Laughter)
FRANCHITTI: I'm confused. We race hard, we've raced really hard. There was a picture that was sent after the race in '09 where you see Scott and he's over by the pit wall, and then you have to look really closely to see the No. 10 Target car between the pit wall and Scott and our wheels are interlocked. So we had a bit of laugh about that the next day. I hope we're in the position for both Target cars to fight for the win, that would be cool.
Q: Both drivers. Talk a little bit about your focus for tomorrow. Obviously, you want to run fast, you want to get the pole, but how important is that and how do you plan to be able to achieve that tomorrow?
DIXON: You know, obviously, I think today is a big part of that as well in preparing well for tomorrow. Obviously we've got to see where we stand, and I think, obviously, already I think the cars, both Target cars are very strong, and we should have a great shot at the pole and definitely the front row. But I think tomorrow, looking at the weather is going to be the big challenge. You may only get one shot at the pole; you might only get one run. So you're going to have to really focus on preparing yourself well, making sure that your first run is a really good one. You know, if you get additional runs after that, it's going to give you a little bit of time to work on it. But with 40 cars trying to qualify, it's going to be a complete mess tomorrow.
FRANCHITTI: Obviously qualifying is important here, but the race is more important. So we're still working on our race car. This afternoon we'll get some qualifying runs in, too. As Scott said, preparation is very, very important for what we want to do tomorrow. But, yeah, Pole Day is always nerve-racking here, especially with this new format and this fast nine thing. I think we did, what did we do, between practice runs and actual qualifying runs we did 10 simulated qualifying runs on the edge here last year. By the end of it all, we were pretty tired and Chip was pretty wound up because he was trying to give us a pep talk trying to get us ramped up again for another qualifying run.
MODERATOR: We've got time for one more question. I want to remind you these folks are going to leave immediately for a team meet, so they'll be rushing out. Anything else?
GANASSI: I would like to hear from Robin Miller. He's vice president of everything else at the IRL here. I'm wondering what he's got to say.
ROBIN MILLER: Why don't you pay your drivers more money? (Laughter)
GANASSI: We haven't heard from this guy all week. Where's he been?
MODERATOR: Anything else? This is going to be very quick.
Q: Dario and Scott, you guys are really kind of the leader drivers, if you will, here this weekend. What's your feelings on the two-by-two restarts that are coming up?
FRANCHITTI: For me, I prefer not to see them here. I think it turns, especially as the marbles build up as the race goes on, it turns it into a lottery situation. If you're on the outside, if you can't get back in, you're going to wreck the car or lose multiple spots, so I don't like that fact. I think for me the best situation right now would be a later restart single file, something restarting down here where all the fans can see it, single file. You're going to see more passing that way, in my opinion. But my opinion probably doesn't count for that much.
DIXON: Yeah, I totally agree with Dario. It's a very, especially later in the race, after mid-distance, there's a very fine line through Turn 1. It's all good and proper when you see the race start three-wide, the track is clean and pretty green and everybody has similar grip levels no matter which lane you're in, but later in the race it's going to be very tough. If you do get hung out, you could lose four or five spots and that could ruin your day. So I think it could turn into a bit of a lottery with that situation. Hopefully it doesn't. But yet we're still to hear what starting procedures or restart procedures we're going to be doing.
FRANCHITTI: I've heard comments these are supposed to be the best drivers in the world and all this kind of stuff, they can start two-by-two. Well, you can put the best driver in the world on marbles here, and I don't care who they are, they're going to hit the fence. That's the problem: The marbles are the issue and the narrow groove here at Indianapolis. That's the only problem.
HULL: Can I say something? You know, when this thing began, it was brought up in the owners meeting here in Indianapolis prior to the holidays. I think I was one of the people that raised a hand in that meeting early on in the discussion. What happened with us on Scott's side of the team was that our outside front tire changer, Rick Davis, had a physical injury and couldn't go over the wall. So for the last three or four events we moved the guys around, and Rick was behind the wall and he assumed the role of having a scanner. And the way that works for us is we have a person on a scanner and on the intercom, he's saying this team is doing this, this team is doing this, so we're hearing all of that along with everything else.
Well, after the second event of Rick doing it, when he finally got up to speed in figuring out who was actually talking, because everybody is talking simultaneously, he said, ‘Mike, he said, when you're yelling green to Scott, there must be 10 spotters that yelled green five to 10 seconds before you did.’ I said, ‘OK,’ so I went to Brian Barnhart, and I said: ‘Who's policing the restart calling? Because Scott is always saying on the radio to me, I'm getting beat on the restarts.’ And you know, we've got the fear of God in us because we don't want to jump the start and be penalized with a drive-through because that sucks. So there was nobody watching what goes on in Turn 3. You've got the guys in the middle that are running to the front over the top of these guys. That's not a safe situation.
So we said in front of the owners as well as we had been saying to Brian, you've got to do something to clean this deal up. That's one of the reasons the two-by-two restart thing has gotten to where it is and why it's on the front straightaway. It's better for the fans, it's better for television, and at least the officials should be able to see what's going on. So it brings integrity back into the sport. That's one of the reasons this thing was driven the way it was driven. And, you know, I don't know what side of the fence to be on because as a fan, I want to see guys race. As a team manager, I want to see the cars roll back into the truck at the end of the race.
FRANCHITTI: We're still racing single-file restarts; we're still racing. Especially I think we're in agreement with a late restart you're going to see, we're going to get both needs met, I would say. But ultimately whatever we're told to do, we'll do it, and do it to the best of our abilities.
MODERATOR: We know they'll do that indeed, as well. Thank you very much for coming in, gentlemen.